Using Vivid Language in Public Speaking

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  • 0:02 Why Is Vivid Language…
  • 0:31 Using Clarity to…
  • 2:07 Vividness as a Way to…
  • 5:08 Writing with Rhythm
  • 5:48 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kat Kadian-Baumeyer

Kat has a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership and Management and teaches Business courses.

A speech should not bore the audience. To captivate your audience and command their attention, the use of vivid language is necessary. This includes using clarity, rhythm and vividness to get your audience to pay attention to your speech.

Why Is Vivid Language Important?

Let's face it: unless you are reading a bedtime story, nobody wants to be put to sleep during a speech. And a boring speech will do that quickly. So, when thinking about what to include in your speech, keep in mind that the more attention-grabbing your word choice is, the more interesting your speech will be.

That is vivid language, and it is used to stimulate a mental image in the minds of the attendees. There are a few tricks you can use to write a jaw-dropping speech.

Using Clarity to Attract the Audience

Long before you begin to wile the audience with wit, think about clarity. This means using clear language so the audience understands what you mean. Be sensitive to audience's perceptions of your words.

Let's say you set out to write a speech about the many fun things to do in Lodi. As attendees settle in to learn more about this region of California known for its vintage homes and fine wines, they will become quite disconcerted to find out you are actually going to speak about Lodi, New Jersey! Unless, of course, they thought it was a speech about Lodi, New Jersey.

Had you clarified the location in the first place, you may have captured a more interested audience. So, use concrete words that will help your audience to visualize the person, place or thing that you're going to talk about.

In the Lodi speech, using the state name in the description of your speech would have been a good distinction for the audience. Those interested in a small town in New Jersey would flock to listen. Others, well, not so much!

Another way to achieve clarity is by using words that the audience is familiar with. Don't be tempted to use five-dollar words that will confuse people. The same applies to the use of expressions that only a certain culture would understand. This works the same way with audiences of different age groups, too.

A speaking event marketed as classic music may mean Beethoven to some and Led Zeppelin to others. It's all in the interpretation. A better way to roll would be to clarify things by stating classical music or classic rock. Big difference, huh?

Vividness as a Way to Get Attention

Now that we understand clarity, we can jazz it up by using vividness to bring the speech to life. This is nothing more than choosing descriptive words that generate interest and can be done by using imagery and figures of speech. Imagery is creating mental pictures that appeal to the senses by using descriptive words.

Remember our speech about Lodi? For those not familiar with Lodi, New Jersey, the speaker may use imagery to describe the rich Italian culinary influence by describing the aromas of sausages sizzling on a backyard grill or the intoxication of the smell of brick-oven breads that fill the air on any Sunday afternoon. He may even describe sun-soaked complexions of the old men as they engage war stories on the bocce-ball court. This would give anyone a good visual of a small town in New Jersey rich with culture as defined by the foods and people.

A speechwriter may use a figure of speech, or a word that means other than their literal definition. A simile compares one thing to another by using the word 'like' or 'as' to connect them. For me, smelling the fresh baked bread wafting from the bakers in Lodi was like a hungry bear smelling a picnic basket on a picnic blanket. I wanted to tear through the bakery case and eat everything in sight.

Now, metaphor takes two things that are opposite in every way and uses them to make a common connection. Being invited to an authentic Italian Sunday dinner was music to my ears.

You can also use an analogy. This is similar to a simile and metaphor in that it connects two things but serves more as a logical argument. It is done to show that two similar things can be similar in different ways.

Sounds confusing, but it is really quite simple. See how it unfolds.

When I mentioned that I knew a few Italian words, I realized I had bitten off more than I can chew. I did not understand the dinner conversation at all.

Sometimes, posing a rhetorical question helps. This is a question that requires no real response and is used to make the audience think. In the opening line of a speech, you might say, 'Who wants to take a journey with me to Italy right now?'

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